This week (16-22 Nov) is Alcohol Awareness Week, and this year Alcohol Change UK will be concentrating on the issues around alcohol and mental health, and the best ways to look after ourselves and those we love during a year of great change and uncertainty.

About 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year, and there’s no doubt that 2020 has been a year of great struggles for everybody.

Excessive drinking of alcohol is likely to make symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression worse – even though people sometimes choose to turn to alcohol as a form of self-medication to try and lessen these feelings.

The Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines advise against having more than 14 units of alcohol per week, which equates to about six standard glasses of wine or six pints of lager, spread out over three or more days, with a few days off.

Drinking alcohol can initially be calm and relaxing, but this is short-lived. Over time, alcohol can worsen low moods and feelings of anxiety. Using alcohol to numb the feelings means that the mental health problems lying beneath the surface are not being addressed.

Relying on drinking can become a problem by getting in the way of everyday activities and impacting upon relationships with your family and friends, ultimately undermining your mental wellbeing.

Some people find it is best to stop drinking altogether if they are struggling with mental health issues, in order to improve their symptoms.

If you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression and are worried that you are drinking excessively to try and cope with or numb your feelings, then it is best to seek support and advice from your doctor – or use the NHS service directories to find an alcohol support service near you.

Tips from Alcohol Change UK to improve your health and wellbeing include:

  • Getting active – getting outdoors and regular exercise can boost your mood.
  • Talk to someone – phoning a loved one and talking about how you feel can help lighten the load.
  • Manage your drinking – downloading the free Try Dry app can help you set some goals.

Find out more about Alcohol Awareness Week here: